In this era of instant communication, fraudsters have much more powerful tools to fool us. They can use social media, email, and websites to reach out and deceive us as well as using high-tech fraud techniques such as hacking and viruses. As if this wasn’t bad enough, fraudsters frequently target the most vulnerable groups, such as young children and senior citizens.
March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada and fraud prevention is always a good idea, no matter where you are, so we decided to compile a roundup of various scams and ways to avoid being a victim of fraud to help you protect yourself and loved ones.
The BBB came up with a list of the Top Ten Scams of 2016:
- Employment Scam
- Romance Scams
- Identity Fraud
- Advance Fee Loan
- Online Purchase Scams
- Wire Fraud - "Spearphishing"
- Binary Options Scam
- Fake Lottery Winnings
- Canada Revenue Agency Scam
- Fake Online Endorsements and Sponsored Content
One common piece of advice that applies to many of these cases is don’t trust everything you read or hear. It might sound great — a new job, an interesting boyfriend or girlfriend, an easy loan, a great product — but unless you have some way to verify the source, it could be a scam. Too good to be true? It probably is.
If you do come across one of these, just don’t ignore it, report it. By being proactive about fraud you can help someone else from being a victim down the line. As John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition, states: “Consumers and businesses play a crucial role in the fight against fraud. By recognizing scams and reporting them, consumers and businesses can protect themselves and assist the Bureau and its partners in stopping fraud.”
Coast Capital Savings, Canada's largest credit union by membership, came up with a list to protect yourself from fraud:
- Don't share any personal or banking information
- Keep your PIN…personal
- Check your statements regularly
- Leave your social insurance card at home
- Treat your checkbook, debit card and credit cards like cash
- Shred documents containing personal information
- Protect your computer
- Never click on pop-ups
- Say no to depositing check on behalf of other people or businesses
To condense those points into one concept, protect your data. The more data that leaks out, the more susceptible you are to being a victim of fraud. Whether it is account numbers, personally identifiable information (PII), financial information or other data points, take reasonable measures to protect it.
The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) recently released its 2016 Enforcement Report to help Canadians learn ways to easily identify and avoid investment fraud. The Report covers numerous cases of investment fraud including:
- Ponzi schemes
- Illegal distributions
- Market manipulation (including pump and dump schemes)
- Illegal insider trading
- Disclosure violations
People can research the CSA’s Disciplined List to find a list of all the completed cases, so you can do your due diligence on people, companies and investments.
The RCMP also came out with a list of internet fraud and scams. While much of this material is part of the other lists, they have some specific advice on computer and internet use:
- Use strong passwords: Use a combination of capital letters, lower cases, special characters and numbers. This method makes it difficult for people to figure out your password. Change your passwords frequently.
- Secure your computer: activate your anti-virus and block spyware software to ensure safer connections.
- Be social media savvy: keep your social media profiles on private and don’t provide any information that is not required.
- Secure your mobile device: your cellphone, laptops and tablets can be vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Only download applications from trusted sources.
- Install the latest operation system: always download and install the latest version of available software as it is much safer, and less convenient for hackers as it fixes “bugs” that allow hackers access.
- Protect your data: use encryption (protective security) for your sensitive files and back up all your important documents.
- Secure your wireless network: lock your home Wi-Fi and avoid conducting financial transactions on these networks.
- Protect your E-Identity: don’t give out your private information on the Internet.
If you are computer-savvy, perhaps this is second nature for you. How about your friends and family though? Do they know and practice these techniques? Just as you’d mention a broken window or lock to them, let them know about these fraud prevention measures.
By using best practices ourselves, by reporting suspicious behavior, by helping our community, we can make substantial inroads in preventing fraud. Let’s work together to make Fraud Prevention Month a success!